Ernest Bower and Prasanth Parameswaran of the Center for Strategic and International Studies offer a good analysis of upcoming Asian security meetings, starting with this week's ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). A region that has not traditionally been fertile ground for multilateralism, particularly on security issues, has recently developed an array of different intergovernmental mechanisms, including the ARF, the East Asia Summit, and ASEAN itself, the heads of state and foreign ministers of which consult regularly. These instruments overlap (and sometimes compete) in bewildering fashion:
The ARF is a key part of emerging ASEAN-based regional architecture. In many ways, the ARF may develop into a political and security ministerial with the purpose of feeding recommendations to the region’s leaders at the annual East Asia Summit (EAS). However, the ARF’s membership is more diverse than that of the EAS, so this political-security ministerial role is also being played by the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus.
The substantive question behind the multilateral choreography is how well ASEAN can hold its own in the high-stakes, major-power diplomacy surrounding the South China Sea. The early signs are mixed. ASEAN ministers are plugging away on a Code of Conduct they hope to negotiate with China. But Cambodia, this year's host, has decided not to put maritime disputes on the meeting's formal agenda, a gesture to Chinese sensitivities.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.